Air Force Could Buy Thousands Of iPads And Android Tablets

The Air Force’s Air Mobility Command will be putting in a request for the purchase of a number of tablets soon in an effort to lighten their pilots’ loads. Many commercial airlines are already taking this step, and American Airlines has already gotten FAA approval. The Air Force is feeling the sting of jealousy, and in consequence may be requesting as many as 18,000 devices.

The number could also be as low as 63; the Command was not forthcoming on this point. The lower number would probably indicate a pilot program, so to speak, for a few devices, to determine which should get the big order.

Which tablet would actually be ordered is also not specified. Bloomberg cannily plays up the iPad angle in its report (U.S. Air Force May Buy 18,000 Apple IPad 2s), but the spokesperson they talked to, Captain Ferrero, said the request might also be for Playbooks, Galaxy Tabs, Xooms, or Nooks.

If these were to be general-purpose tablets, this little menagerie would be hard to winnow down. But the fact is they are going to be used as virtual flight bags, and the iPad is the only one that has the thousands of hours in the air that the Air Force will require. In a year, maybe, Android tablets will have a little more experience under their belts, but for now it’s probably safe to say that any tablets purchased by the government for the purpose of being electronic flight bags are going to be iPads.

Eventually, these platform issues will have to be settled, though: if part of the military is going with Android for security purposes, and others are going with iOS for EFB and, say, general communication, there’s going to be a reckoning sooner or later.